Aerospace prime Northrop Grumman is leading a team that includes AVL, Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost and Michelin to design a vehicle to transport Artemis astronauts around the moon. The Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) will be key to exploration of the lunar south pole region, an area that no human has ever visited.
Northrop will lead systems integration and spacecraft design, and the rest of the team bring together a wide range of capabilities that point to the LTV design areas they’ll likely focus on: AVL develops and tests vehicle powertrains and advanced driver assistance and autonomous systems; Intuitive Machines has experience in payload delivery with its Nova-D spacecraft; Lunar Outpost is developing off-world unmanned rovers; and multinational French company Michelin has worked with NASA before on tires for previous lunar rovers.
The team will almost certainly submit the design as part of a forthcoming request for proposals from NASA, similar to the process the agency used to select the lunar lander under the Human Landing System contract. Although NASA has not yet released an RFP for the LTV, Northrop Grumman is anticipating it early next year, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
But even though the contract solicitation doesn’t exist yet, the space agency has already started requesting information to inform the development of the vehicle. In documents related to the project, NASA provided some details as to what it might be looking for in a winning bid: a vehicle that can traverse up to 20 kilometers on the lunar surface without needing to recharge; that can potentially survive an extended lunar night; and that is capable of transporting a minimum of 800 kilograms.
NASA said it anticipates launching the vehicle around 2027, which suggests it would only be sent to the moon once the Artemis program is up and running. Last week, NASA representatives confirmed that the first crewed mission under the program -- which aims to return humans to the moon for the first time in decades -- would be pushed back to 2025.